Culture is one of the things that I look into when traveling. My curiosity takes me to places; to learn, to accept, and understand whatever difference there is that divides people. I’m always in search of authentic encounters.
There’s so much to see in Taiwan and the number of days I stayed isn’t enough to cover all the places it could offer. I wanted to see the countryside but I cannot go too far out of Taipei. Fortunately, Jiufen and Shifen are conveniently near with just about an hour travel from downtown.
Jiufen and Shifen are both located in the Northern part of Taiwan. This itinerary is ideal if you’re tired of the city vibe as it will give you a refreshing view away from the metro. Though, it can be very crowded especially on weekends since it’s one of the tourist destinations in the country.
JIUFEN OLD STREET
Do you know that there was a movie that is Jiufen inspired? It’s Mizayaki’s famous movie entitled “Spirited Away”. There are parts of the film that do tear off huge Jiufen chunks as inspiration to the character, Chihiro. Many are keen to visit the place to get a glimpse of the iconic red lanterns, and the stairs which were featured in the movie.
The resemblance is undeniable. From the buildings, narrow streets, lots of stairs and the red lanterns found everywhere. And if you’re lucky, you could even meet no face in Jiufen’s famous tea house that is on the tip of the mountain.
Jiufen is a food destination, it is a place of heaven cos it’s all about food stalls and tea houses. So, make sure to come with an empty stomach, or else you’ll miss some of the best things to try. One of the things that you need to try is the Yu Yuan or Taro ball which is a symbol of Jiufen local snack. It is made out of Yam, Taro, sweet potato and some Tapioca. You can have it either hot or cold (with ice), with your choice of syrup that comes with different flavors like ginger or red bean.
We also stumbled into this shop shop that makes creepy looking but enthralling clay masks. The owner started it as a hobby without realizing that he has already made thousands of it. Each mask shows the ugly faces representing the traits and behaviors of us, humans. While some of the masks are faces of influential people like presidents and leaders of other countries.
Pingxi is known for lantern-flying, they even have an annual lantern festival that is typically done during Chinese new year. It’s a fun activity where you will write your wishes to the sky lanterns with colorful patterns, then send it off to the sky for good luck. The whole place is quaintly amusing.
The image of the railway and the pleasing mood of the whole place is far different from the city. The train ride to Shifen is also something to look forward to as the route takes you to the forest. It felt like I was on a movie or an MTV, looking out on the window and just appreciating nature.
Each lantern has a meaning depending on its color like for health, love, work, etc. And it’s best to visit at night as it gives a different experience of flying these colorful lantern than during the day.
One-colored lantern – 100 ntd
Multi-coloted lantern – 200 ntd
There’s also a waterfalls within the area that you could visit which we were not able to see cos the rain was on and off.
HOW TO GET TO JIUFEN and SHIFEN?
These two are most likely to be visited on the same day as the route is ideal and very easy.
– From Zhongxiao Fujing station in Taipei, you can take bus 1062 that will drop you off in Jiufen.
– THEN, if you’re done roaming around Jiufen, take a bus to Riufang train station. From Riufang station take a train to Shifen station.
– There’s a direct route that will take you back to the city from Shifen, just ride the train and stop at Taipei main station.
I’d love to hear your Taiwan experience, comment down below 🙂